Miss Wilms

There were three Wilms sisters.
Long after that generation was gone,
I discovered they had a brother
who served with my grandfather in WWI.

They never told my grandmother she had cancer.
She was in the hospital for months,
but the grandchildren were not allowed to visit,
because we might tell.

I was only eight years old
when my grandmother died.
I remember most of all
the delicious smells of her kitchen.

My mother adored her mother-in-law.  She told us
how much my grandmother loved us, the children
of her son, her only child.  My grandmother’s sister,
unmarried, childless, became her surrogate.

When we lived in Baltimore, Aunt Lil
came to dinner almost every Sunday.
She taught us to play poker,
and called my father “Chickie”.

I cried on the the train from New York on the way
 to my great-aunt’s funeral.  I was allowed to take
a jade vase from her apartment.  I still have it,
along with the ashtray we gave her that says “Miss Wilms”.

For the dVerse prompt from Sarah where she asks us to write about grandmothers.

Aunt Lil made this vase, trying to capture the color in a Van Gogh painting that she loved. The painting on the shelf behind it is one of Nina’s.

night, owl, moon

observe the owl,
illuminated with shivering shadows
cast between branches
by the moon—

is it a sign,
an initiation?
or simply a reflection
of the enormous mystery
of a journey
whose path can never be
foretold?

When I saw Jane’s Random Word Generator list this week, the first word that jumped out at me was owl, which of course reminded me of my moon and owl painting that seems to go so well with so many poems. I was thinking about it when David published the W3 prompt for this week, which invited us to respond to Denise DeVries’ poem “Generation Gap” using a computer aid, such as a Random Word Generator.

In Denise’s poem, she and her granddaughter look up in wonder at the night sky.

The words I used from Jane’s list were: observe, owl, illume (illuminated), shivering, cast, sign, initiate (initiation), reflect (reflection), enormous, foretell (foretold).

Denise wonders if using a Random Word Generator would be cheating. But words are just words, no matter the source–why would it be cheating to take any word from anywhere as inspiration for a poem? It’s the poet who must make them sing.

Remembering 2022

This house has
time–
it wanted mountains,
morning songs, shadows,
happy screams.

We are all sailing
another grey sky,
clinging to tattered
margins.  Move, expand–
you can hear the universe–

Sing.  Ask the wind
if the moon cried
when the universe was young.

Laura at dVerse asked us to take the first lines of the first poems we published each month in 2022 and make a new poem. Three of mine were haibuns, so I used the first line of the haiku part. I’ve also included art from some of those posts. If it sounds Oracle-like, several of the poems were from that source. She always bleeds into the rest of my writing as well.

the turning of the year

I visited the Oracle the last two Saturdays as well, but just printed them out and put them aside. After I printed out today’s message I looked at the other two, and was surprised (although I shouldn’t have been) that they overlapped and repeated themselves.

Because of the word “fiddle”, which always reminds me of Chagall, I looked for the collage I had done long ago for one of Jane’s prompts with a Chagall painting. Although it doesn’t have a fiddle, it has the moon, and fits well with the day, New Year’s Eve.

Here’s the moon yesterday, afternoon over Central Park, and at night out my window.

It’s always a good time make some art with the birdlings.

12/17 the secret between if and why 

behold deeply
listen

the spirit of the wind
follows
a riverpath of everafter

be
who you are inside
always

the ancient wild world
covered
with birdsong and treelight

12/24 windswept

amid oceans
of life born from this
universe–
sailing skies
of color–remembering
how always just is

12/31 the turning of the year

beneath dream fiddles whisper
the cries of shadows–
a blue language of faraway
moonships, swimming through watermusic
that we can almost recall

sing with the wind
and be who you are

beneath shadows time plays with meaning

I got a message from the Oracle earlier this week when I opened my kitchen blind thinking “strange light this morning”.

The first thing she gave me today was the title, and the rest of the words fell quickly right into place.

The rainbow lasted about 10 minutes. Our local online newsletter was filled with photos that day.

Central Park Walk November 2022

1
It’s crisp but not yet glove weather.
Elongated shadows fall from the autumn sun.
Above the sky is so blue it looks unreal.

2
People are seated along the path, faces turned up toward the sun.
Construction workers eat their lunches together in Spanish.
Empty benches line the shaded side of the street.

3
Girls in short plaid school uniforms drift in bunches.
A couple walks slowly, holding hands.
A nanny sings softly to the child in her carriage.

4
Dogs wait patiently as their owners chat.
Squirrels chase each other, rustling leaves and bouncing branches.
Birds call in many languages; I only see sparrows and starlings.

5
The remains of the Marathon are piled up along Fifth Avenue.
Vestiges of Halloween decorations still linger on buildings.
Pine cones and needles mingle with oak leaves on the ground.

Brendan at earthweal discussed this week the intimacy of our landscapes. He suggested “a walk on the wild side”. This is not exactly a wild walk, but it’s my landscape, where I often go both to get from Point A to Point B here in the city, and to get outside of myself.

Also linking to dVerse OLN, hosted by Sanaa.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Living  

I
He wanted mountains
as his final resting place:
climb and let me fly.

II
We climbed, ten,
The landscape open, no trees,
just empty and wide.

III
The black ashes fell up to the ground.
The sun remained in the sky.

IV
A camera captured
pieces.
All around earth rocks family
air.

V
Our conflicts dissolving
into suspended time,
breathing memories,
the connections blinding,
the future past.

VI
The shadow of inheritance.
The pull of familiarity.
Love crossed with contradiction,
no answers,
lost words,
absences
uncertain and unknown.

VII
O voice of silences
what would you say to us now?
Do you not seek the many questions
embedded in the reparations
we expect to find?

VIII
I know only murmurs
and the rhythm of searching.
But I know too
that death is involved
in what I know.

IX
When we came down from the mountain
our bodies flew,
scattered to many destinations.

X
At the sound of each day
and each day returning
we noted the discordant measure
of hours and years.

XI
He did not ask
for more time.
He did not seek miracles
or complain of cruelty.
He knew that all stories
have an end.

XII
Her mind departed
long before her heart failed.

XIII
We went back up the mountain.
It was different
and the same and the earth
the sky accepted anew
our darkest gift.

Joy has asked us this week at earthweal to talk about the first poems that helped you to find your own inner eye and voice, and write about it. I’m sure there were poems and poets that influenced me before Wallace Stevens, but none has been as central to me as his “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. I’ve posted at least 4 variations of it, including one for earthweal.

But the poem above is the one that still cuts closest. The photos are cropped versions of panoramas composed by my older daughter from photos she took in the mountains of Arizona where my father requested that we spread his ashes. My mother did not make any request except to be cremated, but we managed to find the very same place to spread her ashes years later after her death. As I wrote in my original post:  I’ve been thinking about my parents.  My generation is becoming the elders now.  I do not think we are prepared for it.

trick or treat

if is a word
that seems to gravitate to me

a word
I qualify my meanings with

as if
as if

nothing is allowed to be
permanent or definite

who is the them that is
me?  define me

I think perhaps
I will choose to be someone else
I must accommodate myself,
defer to my mask

while the other me
struggles to understand what
we both have
in common

am I who they think I am?

or am I a secret
that will never be
explained?

These drawings of ventriloquist dummies in the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky were inspired by a book of photos of the dummies taken by Matthew Rolston. The Kick-About prompt of a circus immediately brought them to mind.

Haunting and aware, I had always wanted to try to capture some of the sentience of the photos in a drawing. And so I did, randomly opening the book to 4 different faces. 

One of the essays in the book says they are meant “to suggest life”—but any supposedly “inanimate” object so entwined with a human life is alive.  Any child can tell you that.  They may have been separated from their humans, but these faces remember them.

You can read more about the Vent Haven Museum here, and read more about Rolston’s book here.

destinations

step through, not around–
inside the moon, inside dark–
be a traveler

step through, not around–
body recedes, senses flow—
become the beyond

inside the moon, inside dark,
merge with currents, remnants hewn
before conscious thought

be a traveler–
look within through lunar eyes–
transorbital guide

Sarah at dVerse provides the irresistible prompt of moon-names for October’s full moon.

I’m still obsessed with the troiku form, and I revisited my moon postcards from POPO 2021 for further inspiration.